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Current Affairs

Seaweed shows anti-retrovial activity

Date: 11 November 2019 Tags: miscellaneous


A team from Chennai has extracted sulphated polysaccharide known as fucoidan from two seaweed species which have shown anti-retrovial properties that help in containing HIV-1 strain.



The medicinal properties of compounds extracted from seaweed have been used for medicinal purposes since long time. These compounds, as a class called sulphated polysaccharides, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties.



  • Two species of marine brown algae, also known as macroalgae (seaweed), Dictiyota bartaysiana and Turbinaria decurrence were chosen by the team for extraction of the bioactive compound.

  • The team research shows that, in vitro, this compound inhibits the functioning of the HIV-1 strain of the human immunodeficiency virus to a degree that is comparable to the drug tenofovir that is presently in vogue for antiretroviral action.

  • HIV comes in two strains, HIV-1 and HIV-2, and of these the former strain is more widespread and this is the strain that the group studied. The proliferation of HIV in cells is related to the expression of a protein called gagP24. 

  • The bioactive compound extracted from the seaweed and purified was used to treat cell lines (in vitro) and these were compared with two types of control cells. One set of controls were not treated with any chemical, and the second set was treated with tenofovir.

  • The HIV cell lines treated with fucoidan did show a high percentage of inhibition (close to 90%) of the expression of the protein as compared with untreated controls. The drug tenofovir had a high degree of inhibition effect also.

Sea weeds

Seaweed, or macroalgae, refers to several species of macroscopic, multicellular, marine algae. The term includes some types of Rhodophyta (red), Phaeophyta (brown) and Chlorophyta (green) macroalgae.


Uses of seaweeds

  • Fertilizers and soil conditioners

Seaweeds contain many properties that help in increasing soil quality and benefits agriculture.


  • Animal feed

Nutrient property of seaweeds allow them to be used as feed for animals especially horses and cattle.


  • Biomass for fuel

There are techniques for turning seaweeds into bio-fuel.


  • Cosmetics

Skin care industry has many applications of seaweeds in manufacturing cosmetics.


  • Human consumption

It is well known that seaweeds are regularly consumed in countries like Japan and some other countries. They are considered as superfoods.


  • Waste water treatment

Seaweeds have unique property of seperating toxic elements from water. They are very good bio-remediators.